So, you’ve just got yourself a new Border Collie puppy, but when do you start training it? There is so much conflicting information on when to start training a Border Collie and in this article, we hope to answer the question definitively.
We are going to be talking about why some trainers recommend starting the training process immediately and why some believe it is better to wait a bit longer. We are also going to give you some tips and tricks that will hopefully make the training process simpler and easier.
Why is Training a Border Collie Important?
Lots of new dog owners often make the mistake of spending way too much time looking at what collars they think will suite their dog best and what toys they should purchase for their pup. While there is no doubt that these things are important, getting your dog correctly trained is arguably more vital.
The reason for this is that a poorly trained Border Collie can be a nightmare to deal with, leading to a bad pet/owner relationship. Additionally, a well-trained Collie can be called back in a dangerous situation, which may save their life.
Why Do Some People Recommend Waiting?
Some trainers and owners recommend that you wait until about 6 months before you start training a Border Collie. This idea comes from a more “old school” training method where heavy handed corrections were used. The dog needed to be old enough to withstand wearing a collar and dealing with harsh physical corrections or punishment during training.
These old school trainers also believed that a Border Collie would reach the same skill level in adulthood, whether they started at six months or eight weeks, so they saw no reason to start them early.
What About Training a Border Collie at Eight Weeks?
Generally, eight to twelve weeks is around the time that Border Collies are taken from their mother and sent to a new home.
Before this, Collie puppies should be spending time with their mother, brothers and sisters to learn about being a dog. During this time they learn what it means to be part of the pack, how to communicate, and how to play. This first eight weeks is an incredibly important time for a Border Collie puppy and starting training too early can be detrimental to their development.
The idea that training should start at around eight weeks is based on this fact that most Border Collie puppies go to their new owners at this time. They have learnt most of what they need to know about being a dog and now it is time to learn from their new family.
Additionally, a puppy’s brain is not properly formed to learn much before eight weeks, so they do not have the ability to learn new commands and tricks properly.
When Should You Start Training a Border Collie?
With all the above in mind, when is actually the best time to start training a Border Collie puppy? We believe that the best time to start training a Collie puppy is as soon as you get them home, whether it is at eight or twelve weeks.
While a young Border Collie’s attention span is fairly limited, you can start the training process with short sessions. You should start the training process by teaching your puppy not to bite, how to take food gently and basic commands such as “sit”. Additionally, socialising your Border Collie as early as possible is incredibly important.
You should only use reward-based methods of training such as luring with food or clicker training. Forceable methods can be used at later points, but we are not fans of this training method and believe that reward-based training is always the best.
What to Expect from a Border Collie Puppy?
When you get your new Border Collie home don’t expect too much of them during training. Young puppies tend to be impulsive and have little self-control. Their attention spans are extremely limited, so keep training sessions as short as possible.
Try to think of your Border Collie puppy as a child. They will play with anything that interests them and do anything they want. They don’t understand what is theirs and what is not, so do not punish them for chewing your shoes. Remember, that a Collie puppy at around eight weeks will not listen to every command (in fact, they will probably ignore most of them).
Below we have created a rough training guide for a Border Collie puppy.
Border Collie Training Schedule
The following training schedule will be slightly different for each individual Border Collie, however, it should give you a basic idea of what you should expect from your puppy.
What to teach a Border Collie at 8 – 10 weeks.
The first things you should focus on when you bring your Border Collie puppy home for the first time is getting them socialised, training them to take food properly and getting them toilet trained. Remember, don’t expect too much at this stage. In fact, we would recommend that you don’t create formal training sessions and instead let it happen naturally.
It is also a good idea to reward your new Collie puppy when they follow you or come to you on their own accord. This will get them mentally prepared for future training sessions when more difficult and advanced commands are introduced.
As soon as you get your Collie puppy home you should also be getting them used to you touching their paws, tummy, inside their mouth and around their ears. This will make trips to the vets much easier and your vet will appreciate it.
- Socialisation – Border Collies need to be socialised as soon as possible and you need to introduce them to a range of different people, dogs and other animals. While you may not be able to take them out for walks straight away (due to vaccinations), you can still introduce them to a friend’s dog who has been vaccinated.
- Follow – Rewarding your new Collie puppy if they follow you is incredibly important. If your Collie understands that following you is a good thing it makes teaching them commands such as “come” or “heel” much easier.
- Recall or come – While you are not teaching your Border Collie to come properly, you are teaching them that coming to you is a good thing. Reward your Collie puppy when they come to you naturally
- Not to bite – Do not allow hard biting, however, mouthing is acceptable at this stage for a Collie puppy.
- How to take food – Nobody likes a dog that snatches food and if you continue to let your Border Collie do this they may eventually bite somebody by accident. Never let your Border Collie snatch food from your hand and if they do say no and then ignore them.
- House Training – One of the most important things you can do at this early stage. Get your Collie house trained, but remember it usually takes a few months before accidents stop.
What to teach a Border Collie at 10 – 12 Weeks
This stage of a Border Collie’s training process is pretty much the same as above. Just continue what you have been doing, however, you can introduce some more basic commands/skills.
- Socialisation – Increase the amount you socialise your Border Collie and make sure they are meeting a wide variety of people and dogs.
- More recall training – You can start to introduce the ‘come’ command, but only associate it with the action. Only use the word ‘come’ when they are already moving towards you. Continue to reward your Collie when they come to you naturally.
- Discourage biting – hard biting should not be allowed, but mouthing is still okay at this stage.
- Fetch or retrieve – Encourage your Collie to chase after toys and pick them up. Don’t try and get them to fully retrieve yet, but reward heavily of they do.
- Walk by your side – Start to introduce heel training by getting your Collie to walk by your side. You can do this by either using clicker training or food rewards.
What to teach a Border Collie at 3 – 4 Months
At three to four months a Border Collie puppy is much more developed. They should be capable of sleeping through the night and there should be less toilet accidents occurring.
Don’t worry if your Border Collie puppy is even more keen on biting and nipping your hand. Three months is the peak age for biting, so don’t expect the problem to be gone by this time.
Introducing commands such as ‘sit’ or ‘lie down’ is a good idea, but don’t expect them to stay in the position. Remember to keep rewarding your Collie when they come to you naturally and start getting them associated with lead walking.
- Lead walking – Take your Collie puppy for short walks around your garden or house while they are on a lead to get them used to it. Read more about lead training here.
- Even more socialisation –Your Border Collie should be finished their vaccinations at around 14 to 16 weeks, so you can introduce them to more dogs and take them more places.
- Come – Once your Collie has associated “come” with the action of moving towards you, you can begin to use it as a command. Try and get your Collie puppy to come to you in a distraction free environment. Remember to reward and praise them heavily if they do so.
- Biting – No biting should be allowed, but gentle mouthing is ok.
- Fetch and retrieve – Continue to encourage your Collie to retrieve different items and toys.
- Introduce some new positions – Start rewarding your Collie when they sit or lie down. We are not training them fully yet, but instead indicating that we like it when they do get into those positions. Read more about teaching your dog to sit here.
- Basket – Introduce the idea that sitting in their basket when you are doing the washing or when you are eating dinner is good. Reward them for doing so.
What to teach a Border Collie at 4 – 6 Months
At four to six months old you should be getting your Border Collie’s biting problem under control and mouthing should be discouraged. Your puppy should also be toilet trained, but the odd accident here and there is to be expected, especially if they are left alone for an extended period of time.
From around four months a Border Collie puppy will be quite capable, so you can get much more advanced with their training. You can start to introduce more commands and formal commands for the actions you have been rewarding them so far.
Despite their ability for more advanced training, don’t expect your Collie to walk at heel or stay for long periods of time.
- Come – Introduce distractions into your Collie puppy’s ‘come’ training routine.
- Sit and lie down – Introduce distractions and get your Collie sitting and lying down at your command
- Stay – You are not going to ask your Border Collie to stay, but use commands like sit and lie down to get them to so.
- Heel – Continue getting your Collie to walk by your side and introduce more advanced heel training.
- Socialisation – Continue to socialise your dog.
- No more biting – There should be no biting or mouthing allowed.
What to teach a Border Collie at 5 – 6 months
- Command and obedience training – Continue training for commands such as ‘sit’, ‘lie down’, ‘come’ and ‘heel’. Introduce distractions in their training routine.
After 6 Months
From six months onwards, the basics should be fully ingrained into your Border Collie’s mind. They should be able to carry out simple commands such as ‘sit’, ‘come’ and ‘down’. Your Collie puppy should be socialised, toilet trained and there should not be any biting or mouthing.
With that in mind, you can begin to raise your expectations for their training. Train your Collie to sit and stay for longer periods of time and introduce some distractions into their training.
Your puppy should be capable of walking at heel for extended periods of time or close to being able to do so, and they should also come at your command. You can also start to teach your Border Collie some other tricks and commands at this age as well.
Remember that a six-month old Border Collie will be quite strong and powerful. They will be full of energy at this age and you may even find that training them is more difficult. Despite this, if you have set a good basis for their training you should be able to work through the problems.
Are Training Classes Necessary for a Border Collie?
You may be wondering if puppy training school is worth it or even necessary for your Border Collie puppy? Most pet owners can teach their dog everything they need to know. With a bit of patience and consistency, you should be able to train your Collie to respond to commands predictably and reliably.
For those who are struggling with the training process, a puppy school can be really helpful. In puppy training classes the instructor will take you through different training techniques and can answer any of your questions immediately. They will guide you through the training process and can advise you on any problems.
One of the biggest benefits of taking your Border Collie to a puppy training school is that it forces you to train them. So many owners buy a dog and then never train it, so taking them to a puppy school is a good way to motivate yourself.
Another big benefit of a puppy school is that there are usually lots of other dogs there. This means they are great places to socialise your Border Collie, which is incredibly important for their development.
If you have access to other dogs, you may find that a puppy school is less beneficial for socialising. First time dog owners will get the most out of training classes.
Summing Up When to Train a Border Collie
With so many differing opinions out there on when to start training a Border Collie puppy, it can be difficult for new owners. Most modern dog trainers (us as well) believe that training should start as soon as you get your Border Collie home.
If you decide to leave the training process for a bit later it probably won’t make much of a difference, however, we feel that six months is far too late. The only vital things you should do straight away is socialisation, toilet training, and stopping your Collie from biting/mouthing.
Remember to never ask too much of your Collie and that progress can be quite slow. Do not get frustrated and try not to compare your dog’s progress with another.
If you do start training at an early age, you will be surprised by how much your Border Collie can learn. They are an incredibly intelligent breed of dog, so they will soak up anything you teach them.